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What You Should Know About Cannabis in Illinois

By Danyal Swan May 4, 2023
Cannabis in Illinois

While cannabis was once thought of as a gateway drug that would inevitably lead to further drug use, decades of research have drastically shifted that mindset. Although some states are still on the fence, 39 states have passed laws related to cannabis use for medical purposes, and 21 states have done so for recreational use. This is just one indicator of the drastic shift from the view of cannabis as a drug subject to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. With renewed vigor from many state legislatures, cannabis use is slowly but surely becoming more accepted across the country.

Illinois has sought to remain on the front lines of legalizing cannabis. In fact, adults in Illinois were legally allowed to use marijuana products as early as 1931. After federal regulations were put in place to make cannabis illegal on a federal level, Illinois sought to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes with the Cannabis Control Act of 1978. Unfortunately, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Police both failed to provide regulations at the time, and the act ultimately failed.

Thirty-five years later, as research helped to identify the many benefits cannabis could provide, medical cannabis in Illinois became legal with the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in 2013. While the rest of the state would need to wait several more years for recreational cannabis, the legislature did take steps in that direction.

In 2016, Senate Bill 2228 decriminalized simple marijuana possession. This law reduced the penalties for cannabis possession under 10 grams to a simple fine of $100 to $200 and established a blood THC limit of 5 nanograms/ml. The legislature also pushed for laws that governed sales, including the Illinois Hemp Act, which approved the cultivation, processing, and sales of hemp and CBD.

A short three years later, on January 1, 2020, Illinois became the 11th state to fully legalize recreational marijuana through HB 1438, The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Illinois took things a step further in 2022 when HB 4116 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who test positive for THC during required employee drug testing. Under this bill, an employee may not be terminated from a job nor rejected a job on these grounds.

As the bill proceeded through the revision process, it further stated that employees who use cannabis products on their own time and within the confines of the law would be safeguarded from any employment retaliation. This means that, yes, cannabis use is protected for employees in the private sector.  Unfortunately, because cannabis use is still illegal at the Federal level, employees of the federal government are still subject to national legislation.

Current Recreational Cannabis Laws in Illinois

Current Cannabis Laws in Illinois

So what do these laws mean for you? Both residents of Illinois and those visiting the state are welcome to enjoy the use of recreational cannabis as long as they abide by the following cannabis laws in Illinois.

For Illinois residents, recreational possession is limited to:

  • 30 grams of cannabis flower
  • 5 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • A maximum of 500 mg of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product

For non-Illinois residents, possession is limited to:

  • 15 grams of cannabis flower
  • 2.5 grams of cannabis
  • A maximum of 250 mg of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product

The state laws enable residents and non-residents alike to use cannabis in a healthy and enjoyable way, but there are still some limitations. Recreational users may not:

  • Consume cannabis in public
  • Consume cannabis under the age of 21 years old, unless a qualified medical patient
  • Drive under the influence of cannabis

Overall, the laws seek to enable safe, penalty-free consumption for cannabis users so that they can enjoy the many benefits cannabis use has to offer, such as relaxation, socialization, creativity, improving moods, and building connections with others.

Recreational Cannabis Taxes in IL

While Illinois and non-Illinois recreational users may have different purchase limits, they pay the same taxes on cannabis - based on THC amount and product price:

  • 35% THC or less = 10% of the product price
  • Higher than 35% THC = 25% of the product price
  • Cannabis-infused products = 20% of the product price

This tax is for good reason - it funds state programs such as housing programs for underserved communities, mental health programs, and even legal aid.

Current Medical Cannabis Laws in IL

Though recreational cannabis is new, medical cannabis has been legal in Illinois since 2013 as a way to offer those with medical conditions an alternative means to wellness. With the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act, the state’s medical cannabis rules and regulations were defined, including how to become a patient. The program is open to Illinois residents aged 18+, or minors with parental/guardian permission, that have received a certified diagnosis of one of the program’s qualifying conditions by a healthcare professional.

After gaining your physician’s approval, you must create a profile in the Illinois Cannabis Tracking System and pay the state-required medical card fee; you can opt for a 1- or 3-year card, differentiated by cost.

With these extra steps comes perks. Illinois medical cannabis patients have a different set of cannabis purchasing rules compared to recreational users:

  • A possession limit of 2.5 oz every two weeks
  • No sales tax on purchases
  • The ability to homegrow up to 5 cannabis plants

Like recreational consumers, medical cannabis patients cannot consume in public, nor drive under the influence. 

Illinois Cannabis FAQs

Illinois Cannabis

Though Illinois cannabis laws have been in effect for a few years, there are still many questions to be answered about consuming marijuana in Illinois.

Come to Zen Leaf for Quality Cannabis in Illinois

Staff at West Loop Illinois Zen Leaf

Though cannabis is legal in Illinois both recreationally and medically, you can only purchase cannabis from a state-licensed dispensary in Illinois.

Zen Leaf is proud to offer only high quality cannabis options, with guidance provided by our thoughtful Cannabis Advisors. . Whether it’s your first time in a dispensary, your first time with cannabis, or you are simply searching for top-shelf cannabis products, we can guide you through every step of the process.

Stop into one of our Illinois dispensaries today and say hello!


  1. Mitchell I. (2016). Public health benefits from legalizing cannabis: both sides of the coin. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 188(1), 63. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.1150076
  2. (2020). Adult Use Cannabis Summary. Illinois.gov. https://www2.illinois.gov/IISNews/20242-Summary_of_HB_1438__The_Cannabis_Regulation_and_Tax_Act.pdf
  3. (2023). Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Illinois General Assembly. https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=3992&ChapterID=35

Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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